Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce leads winners at Doha Diamond League (video)

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Jamaican Olympic and world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce held on to win a 100m race at the first of 14 Diamond League meets this season in Doha, Qatar, on Friday.

The triple 2013 world champion Fraser-Pryce clocked 11.13 seconds into a -.8m/s headwind, ahead of late-charging Nigerian Blessing Okagbare (11.18) and Jamaican Kerron Stewart (11.25).

U.S. champion English Gardner was last in 11.57. Gardner also ran 11.50 in Kingston, Jamaica, on Saturday after being the fourth fastest woman in the world last year at 10.85 seconds. Fraser-Pryce’s biggest rivals from the Olympics and World Championships, American Carmelita Jeter, the Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure and Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown were not in Doha.

Fraser-Pryce was joined by other world champions winning sprints, David Oliver in the 110m hurdles (13.23) and LaShawn Merritt in the 400m (44.44, matching his world-leading time from the Drake Relays two weeks ago).

Oliver beat a field that included the other medalists from last year’s World Championships — Russian Sergey Shubenkov (second, 13.38) and U.S. champion Ryan Wilson (fifth, 13.52).

Merritt bounced back after running 44.86 in Kingston on Saturday, when he lost to the Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos. Santos, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, was fifth in Doha in 44.94.

Jamaican Olympic and world medalist Warren Weir was upset in the 200m by countryman Nickel Ashmeade, 20.13 to 20.31. American Curtis Mitchell, the world bronze medalist, was sixth in 20.76. Usain Bolt, who hasn’t raced yet this year, isn’t scheduled to compete until June.

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who broke indoor 1500m and 3000m world records in February, faded to sixth in the 3000m after leading going into the final lap.

Russian Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov won a spirited high jump competition that included three London 2012 medalists, clearing a world-leading 2.41m to tie the Diamond League record. The field was missing Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, who made attempts to break the 2.45m world record last year.

New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams, who has captured every major outdoor championship since 2007, won her 47th straight competition.

The Diamond League schedule continues in Shanghai on May 18, when Allyson Felix is scheduled to make her season debut.

IOC shoots down British report that Rio Games could be moved

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

Simone Biles
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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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